Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to save money by dumping 7,000 young adults off MaineCare has been shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his appeal. Maybe he’ll listen now.

This is the governor’s third court loss on this issue, in which the state was represented by a private lawyer because Maine Attorney General Janet Mills refused to take the case, stating that the governor’s position lacked legal merit. Too bad the governor didn’t listen before the legal bills started piling up.

His plan to cut health insurance for very-low-income 19- and 20-year-olds has been turned down by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. District Court, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals and now the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maybe now, the administration will consider changing its strategy when it comes to providing health care to people in need. Maybe now, the administration will realize that dumping more people onto the list of the uninsured and forcing hospitals pick op the slack by driving up their charity care budgets is not reforming the system. Maybe they will admit that thay wasted state resources runing down a legal rabit hole that they were advised to avoid.

It could happen, but it has not happened yet.

Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine DHHS, was quoted in a statement Monday expressing disappointment with the court’s decision, again referred to the young adults who will keep their health care as “able-bodied” — a code word in the LePage administration for “undeserving.” She said the state would continue to fight denying them coverage, which she described as a matter of prioritizing “our elderly and severely disabled neighbors.”

There is no dispute that older and disabled Mainers deserve the best care we can afford, but it should be clear to Mayhew and LePage by now that taking coverage away from others who are also in need is not the way to pay for it. It’s not necessary to pit one group against the others, and it is not legal, either.

Mayhew’s constant attack on them betrays a lack of understanding about how people in Maine really live. She refers to them as “job-ready” young adults, as if they did not have jobs already. The truth is that these benefits are available to people who are working but don’t get health insurance through their jobs and don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

These are exactly the people who would have been helped, courtesy of the federal government, by the expansion of Medicaid, which Mayhew and LePage fought so hard to defeat.

Attorney General Mills showed a better grasp on what’s at stake here.

“Many of these young Mainers are in transition from childhood to adulthood, are working at the corner store, the big box stores, the gas stations and the donut shops, trying to make a living in this state,” she said. “If they break a leg, if they are hit by a car or if they require hospitalization, they have no way to pay for it. No other insurance is available except the safety net of MaineCare.”

Once again, Mills is right. Maybe now, the governor will finally listen.

filed under: